Technical Advisors Serving the Profession

By Knight, Mel | Journal of Environmental Health, March 2012 | Go to article overview

Technical Advisors Serving the Profession


Knight, Mel, Journal of Environmental Health


The field of environmental health covers an extraordinary breadth of technical subject areas. Environmental health practitioners are expected to be proficient in everything from air quality to zoonotic disease. A generalist may routinely deal with food safety, wastewater, drinking water, solid waste, and more in a single day. Specialists may be responsible for highly specific programs such as emerging pathogens, radiation protection, or risk assessment associated with nanoparticles. This diversity is one of the many reasons that environmental health is challenging, rewarding, and ever changing.

NEHAs primary mission is advancing the environmental health professional and enhancing technical competency has always been a major focus. The NEHA Annual Educational Conference (AEC) & Exhibition, the Journal of Environmental Health, NEHA-sponsored training programs, and NEHA credentialing are all aimed at expanding and ensuring technical competence and proficiency. While much of this work is the product of talented NEHA staff, NEHA members perform a significant role in providing the required knowledge, skills, and abilities.

Opportunities to Serve

NEHA provides many opportunities for members like you and me to contribute to the profession. You might be interested in presenting or moderating at a conference. Authoring a paper or serving as a peer reviewer are also options. Representing NEHA as a subject-matter expert is another route of service that has recently grown in scale and scope.

My first significant involvement in NEHA began more than 20 years ago when I volunteered to serve as a subject-matter expert, specifically as the Section Chair for the Hazardous Materials Section. More recently I again served as a Section Chair, this time for the Leadership Development Section. During these times the primary responsibility for a Section Chair was to select and coordinate the speakers for the allotted program track at NEHA's AEC.

The Evolution of Section Chairs to Technical Advisors

The resources and needs of NEHA have evolved over time and NEHA now has a professional education coordinator with the responsibility for program speakers and logistics. Recognizing this change as now allowing Section Chairs to assume a broader role to more fully utilize their subject-matter expertise, the NEHA board of directors agreed this past year to expand the scope of subject matter areas and change the title from "Section Chair" to a more appropriate title of "NEHA Technical Advisor."

Areas of Subject-Matter Expertise

The NEHA board of directors adopted the following list of Technical Advisor Areas of Expertise: Ambient Air; Children's EH; Disaster/Emergency Response; Drinking Water; Emerging Pathogens; Environmental Justice; Food (including safety and defense); General; Hazardous Materials/Toxic Substances; Healthy Homes and Healthy Communities; Indoor Air; Injury Prevention; Institutions/Schools; International; Land Use Planning/Design; Legal; Management Policy (including leadership); Meteorology/Weather/Global Climate Change; Occupational Health/Safety; Pools/Spas; Radiation/Radon; Recreational EH; Risk Assessment; Sustainability; Technology (including computers, software, GIS, management applications); Terrorism/ All Hazards Preparedness; Vector Control; Wastewater; Water Pollution Control/Water Quality; Workforce Development. …

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